The midnight green flag dropped for OTA’s at the NovaCare Complex today, marking the start of a long journey for many. With so many roster positions up for grabs and competition injected deep into the DNA of the team, this offseason promises to be one of the most exciting and crucial in recent years. A sentiment that holds plenty of personal weight for wide receiver, Nelson Agholor.
2016 was a strange, yet disappointing year for Nelson Agholor. The USC product was looking to build on a rocky rookie campaign, and started the season strongly enough. However as broken down in the article series below, a mixture of misfortune, mistakes, and inconsistencies saw what was once a promising year, descend into yet another of mediocrity.
The curious case of Nelson Agholor part 1: Was the loss to Detroit a catalyst for confidence concerns?
The curious case of Nelson Agholor part 2: Falling victim to a vicious cycle
The curious case of Nelson Agholor part 3: When the wheels came off the Wagon
Eventually, Agholor simply imploded. After a mild outburst to the media one week, Agholor was given a week to “Get outside of his own head”, which the key for the former first round pick, who would take a week away from the NFL field and instead spend time with Sport’s Psychologists.
Upon his return, the numbers didn’t improve as drastically as many would have liked, but his effort and confidence certainly did. Whether it was driving for extra yards after the tackle, hustling at the line of scrimmage, sprinting back downfield after an interception or finally hauling in his second touchdown catch of the year, Agholor started to flash the potential that saw him emerge as a first round pick. But despite ending the season on a high, his future seemed to become increasingly cloudy as the offseason wore on.
The additions of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith on short-term deals all but cemented a new look receiving corps, but the Eagles would go on to draft both Shelton Gibson and Mack Hollins. The arrival of two proven deep-threats at the collegiate level who look set to make some waves and shake up the pecking order only makes life that much harder for Nelson Agholor to keep his previous role…or does it?
The most underrated addition that the Eagles made during the offseason, was wide receiver coach Mike Groh. Prior to his lone season in LA, where Kenny Britt amassed 1,000 yards in a single season for the first time in his career, Groh spent time with the Chicago Bears and New York Jets. Working with Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, Groh rapidly grew a reputation as one of the best in his profession. Whether it was coaching the likes of Amari Cooper at Alabama or Brandon Marshall in the NFL, Groh always seemed to bring the best out of his players. His next assignment? Doing the same for one of the crispest route-runners on the roster.
It’s a task that has already gotten off to a flying start. The relationship between Agholor and Groh has instantly sparked a lot of positive feedback..and none more applauding than that of Head Coach, Doug Pederson.
“Listen, Nelson’s attitude has been great.” Pederson told the media ahead of the team’s first OTA practice. “He’s worked extremely hard this offseason. The addition of [wide receivers coach] Mike Groh has really sort of lit a fire with Nelson a little bit, and then the addition with [WRs] Alshon [Jeffery] and Torrey [Smith] and bringing these guys in. As I’ve said all along, competition, man, sharpens you. And that’s what I’ve seen from Nelson. He’s done a great job already this spring.”
“The expectation is for him to compete – to compete to play, compete to start, compete to be a role player on this football team, help us win football games. That’s my expectation with guys like Nelson, and really with all the team members. Just to be unselfish, but yet be disciplined and compete to play.”
Iron sharpens Iron, so they say. Although the new signings may have hampered any chance of Agholor cementing his role before camp started, they’ve also helped him a crucial way, by removing the spotlight that has been burning deep into his game for the last two years. Removing the pressure of drops, the media scrutiny, and the overwhelming sense of a world collapsing after even the tiniest mistake. The weight has been lifted for Agholor, leaving him to do one thing…play ball.
You have to fall before you fly, and it’s something that is very relevant for Nelson Agholor. Jordan Matthews has taken on a leadership role during the last two season’s and as a result played a huge role in helping Agholor bounce back. Matthews opened up on Agholor’s journey so far in the first issue of – = +, saying the following:
“It definitely helps when you put it out there because it makes it easier for everyone to know how to help you. If you don’t address the problem then you don’t know it’s there. If you don’t know it’s there but everybody else does, then it’s even worse because the only person who can make a change is completely oblivious to it. When he opened up about it, we knew exactly what to do and the things to help him out with.”
“I tell guys the biggest thing about this is to understand your identity. If you’re trying to be something that you’re not, or spend the whole offseason trying to conjure up this person who doesn’t exist, or you’re trying to be like some- one else in the league, you’re going to end up wasting your time. Whoever you are, you be comfortable with that and you go all out, balls to the wall and be the best thing you can be..and that’s gonna be enough.”
If Agholor can find his identity as Matthews alluded to, then Mike Groh will have a lot of fun coaching a player that wants to be coached..a receiver that’s willing to learn..and a separation artist who has simply been overlooked and chained down until this point. It’s a long road, but if there is ever a chance at redemption, this is it. No pressure, no spotlight..just raw talent, a veteran presence in Alshon Jeffery, and one of the finest wide receiver coaches in the business.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports